Sunday, October 18, 2015

Celebrating Lincolnville

Looking east is Lincolnville's Punta de Buena Esperanza, named in 1600s -- erroneously called "Riberia Pointe" (sic) by erstwhile "developers" and City Manager's office, without benefit of designation by National Board of Geographic Place Names

Lincolnville Festival returns to Lincolnville
Posted: October 18, 2015 - 12:02am
Lincolnville is adding another layer to its already 149-year-old history. The 45 blocks of houses, churches and businesses are experiencing a post-recession renaissance. Riberia Street has been repaved and sidewalks added. Businesses like the Blue Hen Cafe and the St. Augustine Distillery have sprung up. Green space has been set aside for a park, and deteriorating houses have been restored.

But, perhaps the most exciting development — this year, the Lincolnville Festival returns to its original venue.

The 36th Annual Lincolnville Festival will be Nov. 14 and 15 in Eddie Vickers Park at the end of Riberia Street. For the past several years, the festival, a cultural centerpiece, has been held downtown at Francis Field.

Lincolnville Neighborhood Association President Judith Seraphin is thrilled. Seraphin moved to Lincolnville from Philadelphia five years ago.

“We are an amazing neighborhood, and we expect a whole bunch of people,” Seraphin said. “I’m a great proponent of Lincolnville and love to have people come see what we are all about.”

In 2013, urban planners Prossler and Hallock Inc. submitted the Lincolnville redevelopment plan to the City of St. Augustine. The plan evaluated factors to include traffic, pedestrian circulation, parking, deterioration and market conditions. The redevelopment plan became the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), after being unanimously adopted by the city. The agency, funded by ad volaorem taxes set aside in a trust, is overseen by Mayor Nancy Shaver and city commissioners.

Blake Souder is one of the young Turks in the middle of Lincolnville’s whirlwind of growth. He is an articulate young man energetically propelling the historic neighborhood forward. If he wasn’t lobbying for Lincolnville’s myriad projects, one could easily see him as a legislative aid in Tallahassee. Like many residents, Souder is a transplant and hails from Virginia.

“There are a lot of things around here to get involved in,” Souder said. “It’s fun to see things happen.”

Souder decided to put down roots in Lincolnville eight years ago after graduating from Flagler College. He proceeded to buy and rehabilitate two houses, one for himself and one for his mother.

Souder is excited about the unfolding creation of Riberia Pointe Park. In 2014, the city passed a resolution securing 10 acres to be used in creating a green space that will contain a park and kayak launch. The property, used as a landfill in the past, is at the end of Riberia Street. A bonanza for nature lovers, Riberia Pointe Park will include walking trails with native wildflowers and grasses. The park will also provide a place for birding enthusiasts and a kayak launch into San Sebastian Creek.

“It will be a passive park with minimal structures and no commercial interests. The idea is to create a place where people can relax in a peaceful place near the confluence of San Sebastian Creek and the Matanzas River,” Souder said.

According to KeepRiberiaClean website, in-roads are being made on park development. Todd Grant, deputy director of the city’s public works department, won a grant from FIND. The initial plan is to create a walk way connecting Eddie Vickers Recreational Park to the southern most tip of Riberia Pointe.

On the National Historic Register, Lincolnville was formed immediately after the civil war in 1866 by freed slaves. Comprised of 81 acres, Lincolnville is densely packed with African-American history.

In 1964 during the push for civil rights legislation, Martin Luther King Jr. spearheaded a nationally televised protest march in downtown St. Augustine. He was hidden in safe houses by several prominent African-American residents in Lincolnville. That same year, King was awarded the Nobel Prize for peace. This story is told on the self-guided freedom trail tour sponsored by Northrup Grumman Corp. with the majority of sights located in the historic neighborhood.

“This is Lincolnville we are talking about,” Souder said. “I’d like to see people take a greater interest in the important history and architecture.”

Lincolnville has the city’s largest concentration of Victorian buildings, most of them private residences, according to the Lincolnville redevelopment plan. “I see progress being made by continuing to improve Lincolnville through the efforts of the CRA, the City of St. Augustine and members of the entire community,” Souder said. “The diversity of the residents and the casual daily encounters along with a very strong sense of community are what I like most about the neighborhood.”

Blake Souder in front of one of two homes he rehabilitated in Lincolnville (SAR)

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